U.S. Open champion Payne Stewart hasn't played in a tournament in the three weeks since he won at Pinehurst No. 2, but that doesn't mean he's not prepared to contend this week for his fourth major title.
Last week, he played a round at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., the site of the Ryder Cup matches in September, and last Thursday, he joined Tiger Woods, David Duval, Mark O'Meara, Stuart Appleby and Lee Janzen for four days of golf and fishing in Ireland.
"I think I come in with confidence," Stewart said today. "I don't want to come in here and play poorly and say, `Well, I won the U.S. Open so that's okay.' I won't accept that. I want to come in and perform the way Payne Stewart is capable of playing.
"I've always thought I had a really good chance to win an Open championship. I can play a bunch of different golf shots. I can work the ball in both directions. I'm a good chipper, I putt well, and these greens are relatively flat and not too speedy."
Like everyone else, Stewart is concerned about the length of the rough, and the narrowness of the fairways. And if the wind keeps picking up, as it did today, "an astronomical score can win this tournament.
"They're going to make a lot of money when they cut and bale this hay out here," he said. "The cows are going to eat very good this year, very good. It's thick, it's nasty, and it's not very far off the fairway, if you call those fairways. We call them walking paths in the U.S. Any hole out here this week, you make par and you've done well."
Jose Maria Olazabal, who broke his right hand by punching a wall in anger following a poor first round at the U.S. Open, will play here this week but is having difficulty gripping his clubs.
"It still hurts a little bit," Olazabal said. "But it will take at least a couple of weeks, two to three weeks, to be truly free of pain. It shouldn't get any worse. It's just a matter of time before it heals properly."
At least Olazabal has been able to laugh at himself. When someone asked him to recount how the incident happened, and perhaps demonstrate, Olazabal smiled and said: "I can use your head for it. I had some problems with my feet, now I have broken a bone in my hand, so the only part of my body that I think will handle that kind of punch will be my head."
His problems on the course are no laughing matter.
"I can't grip the club properly because I can't use any strength in my fifth finger," he said. "That's the reason it's affecting my swing. It's not that it hurts when I strike the ball. I can't grip the club properly."
Lee Trevino won't be playing here this week, but two weeks ago at the State Farm Senior Classic in Columbia, Md., he recalled one of his greatest British Open moments when he won his second straight at Muirfield in 1972.
Trevino said when he arrived at the course for a practice round, he was told the odds on him repeating were 20-1. Traveling with a dozen friends from El Paso, he said he made a healthy bet on himself and urged his pals to do likewise. He shot 71 in the first round, and the odds went higher, so they made even more bets, perfectly legal in Britain.
Trevino won by a shot over Jack Nicklaus, and when he and his friends celebrated, "about 11 o'clock that night, a guy walks into the place we're staying with a suitcase. It was filled with pound [notes]. We had a very nice time."